September 23, 2021
Posted: August 1, 2021 10:42 am
An Earthquake Rocks the Alaskan Peninsula with Numerous Aftershocks to Follow
The entirety of Alaska felt the extremely powerful earthquake that hit the peninsula this past Wednesday. This was the strongest earthquake to come through the United States ever since the year 1946. The earthquake lasted for two minutes and continued to get stronger and stronger every second. Due to the peninsula’s remote location, most of the land was unaffected by this 8.2-magnitude earthquake.
This Chignik Earthquake brought a powerful shock just off the Aleutian Islands at 10:15 p.m. local time on Wednesday night. The United States hadn’t felt an earthquake of this magnitude since an 8.7-magnitude quake inflicted significant damage to the Aleutians in 1965. Interestingly, a 9.2-magnitude earthquake devastated portions of Anchorage as well as other communities in Alaska on Good Friday in 1964. This ended up killing 131 people on the long stretch of coast from Alaska to California. During that time, Alaska was going through a chain of tragic years.
Fortunately, there were no reports of anyone being seriously injured or hurt during this most recent quake. The director of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management stated the quake produced a lot of shaking, but no major damage. Although this is true, authorities still performed evacuations for various Alaskan coastal communities. After an initial shock like this, they didn’t want to risk the chance of this earthquake coming back even stronger and farther inland. Some communities within the Kenai Peninsula heard the sirens blare as soon as the earthquake began to happen. Seward located in the south of Anchorage, was one of the communities told to move to higher ground.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake occurred at a depth of 20 miles below the surface of the North Pacific Ocean. This phenomenon took place about 60 miles offshore and 65 miles southeast of Perryville which is about 500 miles southwest of Anchorage. Anchorage is the largest and most populated city in Alaska. Comparatively, the number 500 seems like a lot, but this is a short distance to cover for a monstrous earthquake of this magnitude.
Experts say that even if someone was standing right on top of the earthquake, they would still be as far as 30 kilometers away from the shock. The earthquake that took place on Wednesday hit a subduction zone located where the Pacific plate goes underneath the North American plate. This specific portion of the subduction zone is called the Aleutian megathrust. The area qualifies as a seismic hot spot because thousands of tiny earthquakes occur there each year which makes the magnitude of this large earthquake even more unique.
This area where the earthquake occurred was around the same location where an 8-magnitude earthquake was recorded in the year 1938. Very little data was collected for this particular quake, but the event on Wednesday caused the southwestern portion of this location to rupture again.
A smaller but still significant earthquake also occurred in a nearby spot exactly one year ago. The Simeonof Island Earthquake was a 7.6 magnitude quake that struck about 45 miles away from this year’s seismic hot spot. This may have a direct link to the powerful quake that shook the Earth on Wednesday.
Once the initial shock of the earthquake was complete, a tsunami warning was issued for certain parts of the state. The initial warnings were then recalled for a couple of areas along the coast including parts of South Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. The update Thursday morning from the National Tsunami Warning Center stated that the tsunami produced from the earthquake no longer posed a threat.
The decision to cancel the tsunami warning came when people were reporting sightings of very small wave sizes forming on the coast. Most of them were just slightly larger than half a foot. These small waves were seen in the following areas: Old Harbor, Unalaska, Alitak Bay, Sand Point, Kodiak, and King Cove.
About 400 people in King Cove were taking shelter in a school gym. Also, people residing on the Kenai Peninsula were recognized by the long flow of cars that was evacuating the Homer Spit. This spit is a jut of land that stretches about 5 miles into Kachemak Bay. The Kachemak Bay is a very common spot for fishermen and tourists alike.
Interestingly, a tsunami watch was declared for Hawaii as well given the blanket of fear that covered officials from feeling the power of the first quake. No watches or warnings were issued for Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Marian Islands, or American Samoa because all of these areas were believed to be out of harm’s way.
The initial tsunami warning was issued for about a 1,000-mile stretch of the Alaskan Peninsula. This area went from Prince William Sound all the way to Samalga Island, Alaska. Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey stated that tsunamis caused by earthquakes can usually cause a lot of damage. Fortunately, this specific tsunami took place below a shelf under the water, so the cities were safe. Not much water was displaced, and no one was hurt.
Sand Point, one of the previously mentioned evacuated communities, performed checks the next morning to see exactly how much trauma the earthquake had caused. A community administrator stated that there was no significant damage to any of the harbors, docks, or roads within the community.
On the island of Kodiak, police advised the inhabitants to move to higher ground while they were still unsure if another quake was to follow the first. People were also told that a high school was open for people to use as an evacuation location if they had nowhere else to go.
The Kodiak Police Department kept the citizens up to date as the weather status continued to change. Soon after the initial warning was issued, they were moved to Tsunami Advisory status, but the community was still not in the clear.
Kodiak Island is the largest island located on the Alaskan peninsula which makes it the second-largest island in the entire United States. Additionally, the Kodiak area is located near the northwestern tip of Kodiak Island.
Further reports from the USGS claim that as many as 25 aftershocks occurred once the initial quake was done. Two of the aftershocks came in at magnitudes of around 6.0. No more tsunami warnings or watches have been issued since the ones that were canceled on Thursday morning. Additionally, experts are evaluating the causes of the original earthquake to see what other effects thy ahead for other coasts that run along the United States and Canada. Needless to say, many people in and around the Alaskan peninsula felt lucky to be alive after the tumultuous events that took place Wednesday night.
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